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WW1 nurse among those honoured in Armistice beach tribute

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A nurse who lost her life while caring for casualties of the First World War was among those commemorated in a series of sand portraits to mark 100 years since the end of the conflict.

Rachel Ferguson, of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, was one of 28 people to be honoured on Armistice Day as part of Pages of the Sea, curated by filmmaker Danny Boyle.

“Remembrance reminds us that much of the freedoms we have in the UK are because of those who gave their tomorrow for our today”

Cecilia Akrisie Anim

The project saw the faces of men and women who died serving in the First World War, drawn in the sand at beaches across the UK and Northern Ireland yesterday and then washed away by the tide.

Members of the public were asked to join in by creating silhouettes of people in the sand to remember the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the battle.

On Downhill beach in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, a 30-metre square portrait of Ms Ferguson was created as part of the poignant tribute.

During the war, Ms Ferguson served in Italy, where the Commonwealth forces operated from November 1917.

She worked for Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, one of the main providers of female nurses for the British Army.

Ms Ferguson was educated at Ballygoney National School and Lady’s School, Cookstown, before training at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

She was the daughter of John Stewart and Annie Ferguson, of Lanebrooke House, Ballygoney, Moneymore, County Derry, with three brothers and three sisters.

Ms Ferguson died on 26 June 1918 after she was admitted to hospital with bronchopneumonia, at Bordighera, Italy. She is now laid to rest in Bordigera British Cemetery.

Mr Boyle described Pages of the Sea as a way of saying a “final goodbye” and a “final salute to those who gave their lives”.

The work was the culmination of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and portraits of casualties were designed by sand artists, Sand In Your Eye. 

downhill ni pic 6

downhill ni pic 6

Source: Charles Pacemaker, 14-18 NOW

A portrait of nurse Rachel Ferguson is revealed on Downhill beach in Northern Ireland on Armistice Day

More than 15,000 nurses served during the First World War as part of the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service and the Territorial Force Nursing Service.

The Royal College of Nursing also paid tribute to the nursing staff who were killed in conflict.

RCN president, Cecilia Akrisie Anim, laid a wreath on behalf of the college at the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in memory of those who sacrificed themselves to care for others. 

At Westminster Abbey, Ms Akrisie Anim said: “Remembrance reminds us that much of the freedoms we have in the UK are because of those who gave their tomorrow for our today.

“Medical staff are still working to care for people living in war zones and we still have much to learn,” she said. 

“As this year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, we should remind ourselves that we should always strive for justice, peace and collaboration, rather than conflict,” Ms Akrisie Anim added.

The RCN launched a website earlier this year that uses personal scrapbooks, diaries and photograph albums to bring to life the experiences of wartime nurses.

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